New laws targeting Muslims are reminiscent of a time when innocent Jewish children were abducted by masked monks and imprisoned in monasteries to “save” them from the eternal fire of hell. In our blind mistrust of religious differences, we are returning to the Middle Ages, when the only model for integration was the forced conversion of the minority religion to the majority.
Take Denmark, where the government has introduced new laws mandating that children living in “ghetto” neighborhoods must spend 25 hours apart from their parents every week. During this time, they’ll be taught “Danish values,” including Christmas and Easter traditions, and receive Danish language classes.
By regulating life in these neighborhoods, the government hopes to “Westernize” these children and immerse them in Denmarks secular culture and society. They see it as protection of the many at the expense of the few. But the harsh penalties for non-compliance suggest intolerance for any form of foreign teaching, religious education and cultural difference.
Parents who refuse to cooperate will be fined and their welfare payments halted. The fact that these new rules target low-income, predominantly Muslim enclaves betrays the Danish governments fear that the existence of insular Muslim communities will facilitate the development of extremist ideologies.
Denmark is not the only country to target its minority populations and religious freedom in this way. Austria and Belgium have proposed limiting kosher meat slaughter, for example, and several countries — including France and Norway — have banned religious head coverings in schools or among civil servants. Bavaria and Italy have floated legislation that would require crucifixes to be displayed in public buildings.